Cross Compliance: Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2015 (GCCE 2015 v1)
SMR 1: Reduce water pollution in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)

SMR 1: Reduce water pollution in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)

(Previously SMR 4)

Claimants with land in NVZs must help to reduce water pollution by using and storing fertiliser and manure carefully.

Check if your land is in a nitrate vulnerable zone.

What you must do

Your scheme payments may be affected if you don't comply with the following rules.

A. Where you can't spread fertilisers

Before you spread manures, manufactured fertilisers or other nitrogen-containing materials, you must inspect conditions in the field to assess the risk of run-off to surface water. If you spread organic manure you must produce a risk map of your holding (see 'Records to keep in NVZs').

To decide if there is a significant risk you should account for:

  • the slope of the land, especially if over 12?
  • ground cover
  • proximity to surface water
  • weather conditions
  • soil type and condition
  • the presence of land drains.

You must not spread:

  • if you identify a significant risk of runoff getting into surface water
  • manufactured fertiliser within 2 metres of surface water
  • organic manure within 50 metres from a spring, well or borehole
  • organic manure within 10 metres of surface water
  • if a field is waterlogged, flooded, snow covered, or has been frozen for more than 12 hours in the previous 24 hours
  • in closed periods - see 'Restrictions on spreading organic manures'.

If you use precision manure-spreading equipment such as band spreaders, shallow injectors or dribble bar applicators, you may spread manure up to 6 metres from surface water.

On Sites of Special Scientific Interest and agri-environment scheme land which is used for breeding wader birds or as species-rich semi-natural grassland, you can spread solid manure within 10 metres of a surface water if:

  • it is spread between 1 June and 31 October inclusive
  • it is not spread directly onto surface water
  • the total annual amount does not exceed 12.5 tonnes per hectare (t/ha).

B. How much nitrogen you can spread in NVZs?

There is a limit on the amount of crop-available nitrogen from organic manure and manufactured fertiliser that you can apply to most crops in any 12 month period (the N max limit).

You must make sure the average nitrogen application rate in kilograms per hectare (kg N/ha) does not exceed the N max limit for that crop type.

Table 4: The N max limits
Crop N max limit (kg N/ha) Standard crop yield (t/ha)
Wheat, autumn or early winter sown 220 8
Wheat, spring sown 180 7
Barley, winter 180 6.5
Barley, spring 150 5.5
Oilseed rape, winter 250 3.5
Sugar beet 120 n/a
Potatoes 270 n/a
Forage maize 150 n/a
Field beans 0 n/a
Peas 0 n/a
Grass 300 n/a
Group 1
Asparagus, carrots, radishes, swedes, individually or in any combination 180 n/a
Group 2
Celery, courgettes, dwarf beans, lettuce, onions, parsnips, runner beans, sweetcorn, turnips - individually or in any combination 280 n/a
Group 3
Beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, leeks - individually or in any combination 370 n/a

Adjustments you can make to your nitrogen limit (N max):

  • For wheat and barley, you can apply an additional 20kg N/ha for every tonne that expected yield exceeds the standard yield shown in the table.
  • If you’ve applied straw for mulching or paper sludge to the previous or current crop, you can apply an additional 80kg N/ha.
  • You can apply an additional 40kg N/ha to milling wheat varieties.
  • For autumn or early winter sown wheat and barley, you can apply an additional 20kg N/ha on fields with a shallow soil type (not shallow soils over sandstone).
  • The N max limit for winter-sown oilseed rape is 250 kg N/ha. This includes the amount of up to 30kg N/ha allowed as an exemption to the closed period for manufactured nitrogen fertiliser. You can increase this by an additional 30kg N/ha for every half tonne that the expected yield exceeds the standard yield.
  • Where grass is grown to achieve a protein content of at least 16% of the dried product, you can apply nitrogen up to the level recommended by a 'FACTS-qualified' adviser. In this case, if the land is not irrigated, you may not apply more than 500kg N/ha. If the land is irrigated, you may not apply more than 700kg N/ha. In the second and any subsequent years that you make any adjustments, you must give FACTS-qualified advisers the results of soil analyses from representative autumn samples taken between 1 September and 31 October to include in the N demand calculation.
  • You can apply an additional 40kg N/ha to grass that is cut at least 3 times in a year.

C. How much livestock manure you can apply in NVZs

There is a limit of 170kg/ha on the amount of nitrogen in livestock manure that can be applied (directly by grazing livestock or by spreading) on your holding per calendar year. This limit applies as an average across your holding. It is separate from the field limit of 250kg/ha of total N load from organic fertilisers.

You'll need to calculate the amount of nitrogen applied to your land from these sources and plan so that you do not exceed the limit.

As a grassland claimant, if you meet certain criteria and agree to some additional land management, fertiliser planning and record keeping conditions, you can apply for a derogation that allows you to increase this limit to 250kg per hectare of nitrogen from grazing livestock per year. Get help to calculate the amount of nitrogen produced by your livestock - search for 'Spreading Nitrogen fertilisers and Organic manures' at

D. Limits on spreading all organic manure in NVZs

The most nitrogen (total N) from organic manures you can spread on any given hectare in any 12 month period is 250kg.

This does not include N contained in livestock manures deposited by grazing animals.

Alternatively, if you only use compost that does not contain any manure and which has been produced in accordance with the PAS100 protocol, you can apply:

  • up to 500 kg N/ha every 2 years as mulch or worked into the ground
  • up to 1,000 kg N/ha every 4 years (only as mulch and in an orchard growing fruit of the genera Malus, Prunus or Pyrus).

E. Restrictions on spreading organic manures

You must not spread organic manures with a high readily available N content (where more than 30% of the total N content is readily available to the crop) in the following periods:

  Grassland Tillage land
Sandy or shallow soils 1 Sep to 31 Dec 1 Aug to 31 Dec
All other soils 15 Oct to 31 Jan 1 Oct to 31 Jan

If you are in an NVZ designated for the first time in 2013, you do not have to keep to these closed periods until after July 2015. If a crop is sown on sandy or shallow tillage land on or before 15 September, you may apply organic manure between 1 August and 15 September inclusive.

If you are an organic claimant, or you are formally converting to organic status, you can apply organic manure up to a maximum rate of 150 kg N/ha during the closed period to:

  • winter oilseed rape and grass (between the start of the closed period and the end of October)
  • asparagus, brassica, overwintered salad onions, parsley and bulb onions (between the start of the closed period and the end of February)
  • other crops if you have written advice from a FACTS-qualified adviser.

From the end of the closed period until the end of February, you must not spread more than 30 m3/ha of slurry or 8 tonnes/ha of poultry manure in a single application. You must allow at least 3 weeks between each individual application. If you are in an NVZ designated for the first time in 2013, this does not apply until January or February 2016, depending on your soil type.

You must only spread slurry using equipment that has a low spreading trajectory (ie less than 4 metres from the ground). There is an exception if you use equipment that spreads slurry at a maximum rate of not more than 1 millimetre per hour when operating continuously.

If you are spreading on bare soil or stubble (except if it's been sown with seed), then you must:

  • incorporate poultry manure, slurry and liquid digested sludge as soon as practicable and within 24 hours at the most
  • incorporate any other organic manure (unless it has been spread as a mulch on sandy soil) as soon as practicable and within 24 hours if the land is sloping and within 50 metres of surface water that could receive its run-off.

You do not have to incorporate slurry and liquid digested sludge if it’s been applied using a trailing hose, trailing shoe or dribble bar band spreader, or an injector.

F. Restrictions on spreading manufactured fertiliser N in NVZs

You must not spread manufactured nitrogen fertiliser in the following periods:

  • Grassland - 15 September to 15 January
  • Tillage land - 1 September to 15 January

However, you may apply manufactured fertiliser during these closed periods to the following crops, up to a maximum permitted rate:

  • winter oilseed rape
  • asparagus
  • brassica
  • grass
  • overwintered salad onions
  • parsley
  • bulb onions

Applications to other crops during the closed period are permitted if you have written advice from a FACTS-qualified adviser.

G. How to plan your nitrogen applications in NVZs

You must plan all applications of nitrogen from organic manures and manufactured fertilisers to each crop in each field (including grass).

Your plan must show that you've taken the following 4 steps:

  1. calculate the amount of nitrogen in the soil that is likely to be available for uptake by the crop during the growing season (the soil nitrogen supply)
  2. calculate the optimum amount of nitrogen that should be applied to the crop, taking into account the soil nitrogen supply (the crop nitrogen requirement)
  3. calculate the amount of nitrogen, from any planned applications of organic manure, that is likely to be available for crop uptake in the growing season in which it is spread (the crop available nitrogen)
  4. calculate the amount of manufactured fertiliser required.

The year for applying fertiliser to permanent grassland begins on 1 January. Before you apply any nitrogen fertiliser to permanent grassland, you must complete steps 1 and 2, and prepare a plan for the spreading of any nitrogen fertiliser for that growing season.

For any other crop (including temporary grass) you must complete steps 1 and 2 and prepare a plan for the spreading of any nitrogen fertiliser for that growing season. You must do this before you apply any nitrogen fertiliser (whether manufactured or organic) for the first time to the crop or to a field in which you intend to plant a crop.

You must also carry out steps 3 and 4 before each occasion when you spread fertiliser.

When working out how much nitrogen is available for crop uptake from applications of livestock manure, you must:

  • establish the total amount of nitrogen in the manure using the standard values in Table 35 of the ;standard values tables' or by sampling and analysis
  • calculate the amount of crop-available nitrogen using the minimum percentages provided in Table 36.

These tables are at

For applications of other organic manure, you must work out the total amount of nitrogen and the amount of crop-available nitrogen using the manufacturer or supplier's technical analyses.

If these technical analyses are not available, use the values given in the Fertiliser Manual (RB209). The manual refers to the total amount of nitrogen as 'total nitrogen'. It refers to crop-available nitrogen as 'nitrogen available to the next crop'.

In either case, you can use values obtained by sampling and analysis of the manure if you prefer to.

You must not apply organic manure to crops for which there is an N max value if you have not used one of these methods to work out how much crop-available nitrogen it contains.

You must keep a copy of this plan for 5 years.

H. Records to keep in NVZs

The size of your holding

  • You must keep an up-to-date record of the total size of your holding and update it within a month if it changes. The total size excludes surface waters, any hardstanding, buildings, roads or any woodland, unless that woodland is used for grazing.
  • You must keep all records for 5 years.

Risk map

You must produce and keep a map of your holding that shows:

  • each field, and its area in hectares
  • areas with sandy or shallow soils
  • land with a slope greater than 12 degrees
  • land drains (except if they are sealed and impermeable)
  • sites suitable for temporary field heaps (if you intend to use them to store manure)
  • land that has a low run-off risk (if you intend to use it for spreading during the storage period to reduce your storage capacity requirement)
  • all surface waters on your holding and land within 10 metres of them
  • all springs, wells and boreholes on your holding, and within 50 metres of the boundary of your holding, and land within 50 metres of them.

You must update the map with any changes within 3 months of the date of the change. The map must be kept for 5 years.

Field records

For each crop in each field, you must record the following within one week.

When sowing a crop (if you intend to spread nitrogen fertiliser):

  • the type of crop and the date of sowing.

When spreading organic manure:

  • the area spread
  • the quantity spread
  • the date of spreading
  • the method of spreading
  • the type of manure
  • the total N content
  • the amount of nitrogen that was available to the crop.

When spreading manufactured fertiliser:

  • the date of spreading
  • the amount of nitrogen spread.

Also record the yield of any arable crop on which nitrogen fertiliser has been used.

Make sure you also keep evidence of:

  • the soil N supply and method of assessment
  • the crop N requirement and the source of information you used to calculate it
  • any written advice from a FACTS-qualified adviser.

All records must be kept for 5 years.

I. Livestock calculations

If you use livestock manure on your holding, you must complete a record by 30 April showing for the previous year the numbers of livestock kept on your holding, the category and number of days each animal spent on your holding.

You can find the livestock categories and the amount of nitrogen they produce by downloading the blank 'claimant completion' and 'standard values' tables. They are available at:

You must also complete a record by 30 April showing for the previous year:

  • your calculations showing that you have kept within the whole farm N limit
  • your calculation of the amount of nitrogen produced by livestock
  • a copy of your sampling and analysis of manures and soils and/or output from software (for example, ENCASH).

All records must be kept for 5 years.

J. Imports and exports of manure

Within one week, you must record details of any imports or exports of livestock manure:

  • its type and amount
  • the total nitrogen content of any import
  • the date it was brought onto or sent off your holding
  • the name and address of the supplier or recipient
  • a contingency plan you will follow if an agreement for a person to accept an export of livestock manure fails.

If you don’t know the N content of imported manure, you must find this out (by analysis or calculation) as soon as reasonably practicable, and then record it within a week.

All records must be kept for 5 years.

K. Exemptions from NVZ spreading limits


In general, NVZ rules do not apply to land inside greenhouses. Greenhouses include both glasshouses and polytunnels, in which crops are grown under cover in an enclosed space. However, if land is exposed to the open air at any time (for example, if you uncover a polytunnel) the rules apply for the whole of that year.

If the size of your holding changes, but the change only affects an area covered by greenhouses, you do not need to update your map and records. However, you still need to follow the rules on manure storage and recording the size of your holding and any rules applying to land outside the greenhouses.

Low intensity farm

You are a low intensity claimant if all of the following apply to you:

  • at least 80% of your land is grassland
  • no more than 100kg N/ha per year is applied as organic manure (including any N in manure applied directly to the field by animals)
  • you spread no more than 90kg N/ha per year as manufactured fertiliser
  • you do not bring any organic manure onto your holding.

If you are a low-intensity claimant, you do not have to keep a record of your actual applications of manufactured fertiliser and organic manure to crops in each field, but you must still plan your nutrient use.

When calculating your fertiliser application rate you must exclude any area of your holding where you do not spread any fertiliser or work the soil (for example on rough grazing areas).

L. Storing organic manures

Storage capacity and type

You must have sufficient facilities to store all slurry produced on your holding and all poultry manure produced in a yard or building from:

  • 1 October to 1 April (6 months) in the case of pigs and poultry
  • 1 October to 1 March (5 months) in any other case.

Slurry stores must, additionally, have the capacity to store:

  • all rainfall expected to enter the store during the storage period (including rainfall runoff from elsewhere)
  • any wash water or other liquids that enter the store during that period.

If you have poultry manure or other types of solid organic manure or bedding contaminated with organic manure, you must store them in one of the following:

  • in a vessel
  • on an impermeable base, with appropriate collection and containment of runoff
  • in a roofed building or
  • in an appropriately located temporary field heap.

M. Construction standards for manure stores

If you build a new facility for storing organic manure (ie slurry stores or impermeable bases for solid manure) and/or if you substantially reconstruct or enlarge your existing facilities, you must:

N. Temporary storage of solid manures in field heaps

You must:

  • make sure your field heap is at least 10 metres from any surface water (including ditches) or land drain, or 30 metres if the land slopes at 12 degrees or more
  • make sure the location of any field heap is not liable to being waterlogged or flooded
  • locate field heaps at least 50 metres from a spring well or borehole
  • move any field heap at least every 12 months
  • leave a 2 year gap before returning to the same site
  • keep a record of the sites used for field heaps and the dates of use.

When you prepare your risk map, it must show the location of temporary field heaps.

Temporary field heaps must:

  • be solid enough to be stacked in a free-standing heap
  • not give rise to free drainage from within the stacked material
  • be covered with an impermeable material if they contain poultry manure without bedding or litter
  • occupy as small a surface area as is practically required to support the mass of the heap and prevent it from collapsing.

O. Record keeping for storage of manure

Record the actual capacity of the storage facilities on your farm and update any changes to this within 1 week.

You need to record:

  • your calculation of the volume of manure that will be produced by the anticipated number of livestock kept in a building or on hard standing during the storage period
  • your calculation showing the amount of storage you need
  • any changes in volume due to introducing livestock onto your farm for the first time (within 1 month of the change).

By 30 April each year make a record of:

  • the numbers of livestock in each category kept in buildings or on hard standing during the previous storage period
  • any imports or exports of poultry manure or slurry during the most recent storage period
  • the dates for start and end of use and locations of any field sites used for storing solid manure

All records must be kept for 5 years.

P. Silage making and storage of silage and slurries

You must notify your local Environment Agency office in writing about a new, substantially enlarged, or substantially reconstructed installation at least 14 days before work constructing the new or improved installation is to begin.

You must:

  • notify your local Environment Agency office of the place where field silage is to be made at least 14 days before that site is first used
  • make sure that installations meet requirements for capacity, durability, maintenance and safety zones, are built in accordance with the relevant construction standards, and field silage site rules are met
  • comply with any notices served by the Environment Agency that require improvements to be made to an installation or field silage site if the Agency doesn’t consider them to be suitable
  • carry out regular inspections of installations and make timely repairs where necessary.

You must not carry out separation of slurry into its solid and liquid fractions unless it is done mechanically or on an impermeable surface where the liquid fraction drains into a suitable container.

Other guidance

All claimants in NVZs must follow Defra's 'Guidance on complying with the rules for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in England for 2013 to 2016'.

Contact the Environment Agency for information about NVZ derogations which may be available.


Environment Agency: 03708 506 506

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